Gerasa (modern Jerash), 30 miles north of Amman, is the second most visited tourist site in Jordan, after Petra, and one of the world’s most extensive Roman sites outside of Italy.
There is evidence that the area has been inhabited since the Neolithic period but serious development began with the Hellenistic Greeks in the 3rd-century BCE. The city grew and prospered under Roman rule and was a member of the Decapolis, ten politically important city-states in the far eastern reaches of the empire. At its height, in the 2nd-century CE, 20,000 people lived in Gerasa.
The ancient remains sprawl across an elevated, rolling plain with the modern town and cultivated fields looking on from the surrounding slopes. Much has yet to be uncovered. Demonstrations of gladiator fights and chariot races take place in the hippodrome every day except Tuesday. For three weeks each summer (around late July-early August) the site hosts the Jerash Festival, an acclaimed arts festival with theater, music and dance performances staged among the ruins.